Identification of Naegleria fowleri in warm ground water aquifers

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Received for publication February 16, 2009. The free-living amoeba Naegleria fowleri was identified as the etiological agent of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis that caused the deaths of two children in Peoria, Arizona, in autumn of 2002. It was suspected that the source of N. fowleri was the domestic water supply, which originates from ground water sources. In this study, ground water from the greater Phoenix Metropolitan area was tested for the presence of N. fowleri using a nested polymerase chain reaction approach. Phylogenetic analyses of 16S rRNA sequences of bacterial populations in the ground water were performed to examine the potential link between the presence of N. fowleri and bacterial groups inhabiting water wells. The results showed the presence of N. fowleri in five out of six wells sampled and in 26.6% of all ground water samples tested. Phylogenetic analyses showed that β- and -proteobacteria were the dominant bacterial populations present in the ground water. Bacterial community analyses revealed a very diverse community structure in ground water samples testing positive for N. fowleri.

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